Well Drinks List: Ultimate Guide

Also known as rail drinks, well drinks are mixed drinks composed of one or more liquors in addition to certain soft drinks.

This blog is an ultimate guide to well drinks, the profitability that a restaurant can attain by serving them and an essential well drinks list along with the recipes. 

What Differentiates Well Drinks From Other Cocktails?

Well drinks are prepared using the bar’s cheapest liquor. A popular well drink is prepared using rum and coke.  

These cheap liquors are kept at the bartender’s waist height in a place called the speed rail. The rail is, in reality, a rack resembling a well. Therefore, such cocktails came to be known as “rail drink” or “well drink”.  

The well is typically stocked with cheaper brands of liquor including vodka, tequila, rum, gin and whiskey. It also has non-alcoholic stuff like various juices, sodas, grenadine and garnishes like cherries, lemon and lime wedges. 

Why Are Well Drinks Popular In A Bar?

From the moment you walk into a bar, you are sure to hear drinks like rum and coke, vodka soda, long island iced tea, gin and tonic being ordered again and again. 

Though a well drinks list might seem very simple, these primary liquors can be termed the unsung heroes of the bar. Although they are not listed on the menu, they are always in high demand. They can be prepared by the bartender quickly and have high profit margins.

The Benefits of Well Drinks

It is common for craft beers, frosé and social media worthy cocktails to get all the attention in the business of booze. But the reality is, well drinks have a higher profit margin than any other beverage or dish on a restaurant’s menu.  

Their food cost percentage is low, and they are prepared using simple, low-cost ingredients. A low food cost percentage leads to high profit margins. 

The average food cost percentage incurred by: 

  1. Restaurants – 25% to 40% 
  2. Beer – 20% to 40% 
  3. Wine – 30% to 50% 

Well drinks are quick and easy to produce. The time taken by a bartender to make a cocktail for $16 can be used instead to crank out eight vodka cranberries each costing $8. Doesn’t even need a shaker! So, you earn $64 in place of $16. Isn’t that amazing?  

However, it is important for the bar manager to conduct pour tests on a periodic basis to ensure bartenders are not pouring excessive quantities.   

What Qualifies As A Well Drink?

A cocktail prepared using lower-cost liquor qualifies to be called a well drink. A good bartender should have good knowledge about well drinks as they are the most often ordered. 

Well drinks usually contain a minimum of three ingredients or fewer. They are a combination of liquor, mixer and fruit or garnish.  

Maximizing The Well Drink List

The list can be maximized by providing variety, infusing creativity and balancing the flavors. Here are a few tips to help you derive the maximum advantage and profit from the well drinks offerings: 

  1. Highlight Seasonal Flavors – The restaurant can align the list based on the seasons. For example, citrus-based cocktails can be offered during summer while warm liquor-based drinks can be brought to the list during winters. This also helps keep the menu fresh and attractive throughout the year.  
  2. Offer Signature Dishes – The restaurant can create a unique signature well drink that distinguishes it from its competitors. This drink would encourage customers to make frequent visits fostering a sense of identity and exclusivity.
  3. Staff Education – Bartenders must be well-trained and possess complete knowledge about all the offerings. They should be competent enough to recommend drinks to customers based on their preferences and answer any kind of query about the ingredients used. 
  4. Balanced List – The well drinks list should cater to a wide range of palates – starting from those who prefer sweet or fruity cocktails to those who prefer a more potent, alcohol-based drink. By offering a balanced menu, you can ensure that there is something for everyone.
  5. Menu Upgradation – The list should be made interesting by always adding new drinks and removing less popular and profitable ones. This helps maintain the curiosity and eagerness of customers who would always swarm to try out your latest concoctions.  


Q. What is a well drink?

Ans: They are drinks made from house liquors and are stored in a well or rack at waist height within the bartender’s easy reach.

Q. What is the well area of a bar? 

Ans: A well at the bar is a place for storing and serving cheaper, commonly used liquors. 

Q. Are well and rail drinks the same? 

Ans: The two are basically the same and are terms used interchangeably.  

Q. What is a premium well drink? 

Ans: Drinks made using top shelf liquors after a specific request from the customer are called premium drinks.  

Q. What are the most ordered well drinks? 

Ans: Some common well drinks are vodka soda, vodka cranberry screwdriver, Moscow mule, dirty Shirley, Madras, gin and tonic, whiskey and coke, tequila sunrise and Long Island iced tea. 

Q. Are well drinks profitable? 

Ans: Well drinks have a food cost percentage of just 5%. Since they can be made quickly with just a few ingredients, they are the most profitable item on the menu.  


Well drinks are much like the workhorses of the bar. Although they reap high profits, they do not tend to get much attention in pop culture or on social media platforms. However, with a few creative, thoughtful twists, one can turn the spotlight on the well drinks menu and enjoy the impactful positive consequences. So, raise a toast to well drinks. 

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